Hello and welcome to the 170th Commencement.
I would like to thank our president, Pat White, our Deans and faculty, our friends and family, and my graduating Wabash Brothers for a wonderful four years.
When I first got the e-mail from Chris Duff about meeting with Dean Philips, my heart jumped because there are generally two reasons why a student would have to meet with him: something very good or something very bad. Immediately I thought, "Great, what did I do now?" He left John and me hang a little while he was explaining why we were called into his office and when he announced his true motives—to invite us to speak at commencement—we were both shocked and relieved.
I know little to nothing about the whole selection process except for what I heard in that office. He told John that he was selected for a number of reasons, including the fact Dean Philips had also heard him speak at the Fiji house. He then turned to me and said "I don’t think I’ve ever heard you speak [publicly] but I have read your e-mail [about the zombies]." I hope that there was more involved in that discussion.
Thank you for the consideration and the honor.
Now I shall dive into the body of my Commencement address, but worry not, Ladies and Gentlemen of Wabash College. I am NOT a lawyer, therefore I will be brief.
In the editorial I recently wrote in The Bachelor, I said, and firmly still believe, that heretofore Wabash has fought over the stupidest things; this happens on every campus. At Purdue, at Harvard, at Yale, at USC, at that little school to the south whose mascot may or may not be avian, everywhere.
But it shouldn’t happen here. We’re better than that and because we’re better than that, we can focus our energies to fight for our futures and our children’s futures.
Andre Gide, a French author, philosopher, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947, once called upon people to "work and struggle and never accept an evil you can change." As a Wabash family, we too are challenged to follow Andre Gide’s call because of who. we. are. Who we are ultimately comes from why we are. Wabash College arose from the primordial forests of western Indiana to educate men in every capacity according to the wants and needs of the country.
We do so much here at Wabash, but in our time here I see that we’re focused too much on ourselves, making sure that we get that A , going the extra nine yards to insure our already pristine academic records, both students and faculty members. Don’t get me wrong, this is good but at the end of the day can you respond affirmatively when you ask yourself, "have I done my daily good deed to make my community a better place for our children?’ We do so much here at Wabash, but we can do much more.
I am going to ask a series of questions, which is by no means exhaustive, and for all of you that can honestly answer "yes," please stand and remain standing.
Do you volunteer as a Scout leader, for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, College Mentors, or for any other youth group?
Do you volunteer with the Special Olympics?
Do you Relay for Riley?
Have you helped out at the Women’s shelter?
Do you volunteer at the Red Cross?
Do you protect our freedoms a member of our Armed Forces, as a firefighter, or as a police officer?
Are you tending our sick and wounded as a doctor or nurse or an EMT?
Do you teach or tutor students at your local schools?
Do you sit on your library’s board?
How about the School board?
For those of you who answered "Yes, I do." Thank you for your service. Let’s give them some applause. Thank you, you may be seated.
We do a lot, but we can do more.
—At a time when gas prices are rising so much that people genuinely have to choose between getting gas to go to work or buying food for their family,
—at a time when various illicit substances are circulating in our schools,—at a time when about half of students attending IPS highs schools graduate,
—at a time when there are children showing up at their school’s lunch line to have their "Happy Meal" that isn’t happy because it’s from McDonalds, but "Happy" because it might be their only meal of the day,
—at a time when our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our boyfriends and girlfriends, our husbands and wives are putting their lives on the line for basic human freedoms in Iraq and Afghanistan,
how often do we exercise our mission statement to think critically, to act responsibly, to lead effectively, and to live humanely to make our world a better place, to rise to the wants and needs of our community, of our country, of our world, not for us but for our children?
This year we have five guys going into Teach For America, three going to the Peace Corps, a huge number are interning to serve the community in various capacities at hospitals, at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, and as special needs councilors, and going to grad schools in various professions that will help our community. But it’s not enough. We can and must do more.
Who are we? We are Wabash.
Why are we? Why do we exist? To answer the wants and needs of our community, of our country, of our world. And if we can’t do that, if we can’t look beyond our ivory towers, as spectacular and beautiful as our combined academic efforts have made them, if we can’t rise to those wants and needs, then we do not deserve the legacy of Wabash’s founding fathers. The legacy that Edmund Hovey, Elihu Baldwin, and Caleb Mills, laid out for us.
Yes we do have service projects in our Freshmen Retreats, we do have our Wabash Day, we do have annual service events on campus, but by and large once those events are done there is little follow up service. We don’t establish those ties with our community and if we continue to cloister ourselves, we lose a great part of what makes Wabash College Wabash College: Crawfordsville. We shouldn’t do this because Crawfordsville welcomed us here, not because we interact with our community and rely on them every day, not because our fate as an institution is tied to the fate of this community, but because it is our inherent debt to society, because it is our duty as citizens of this community, because it is our call, our bound and pledged obligation to Wabash College, to Crawfordsville, to Indiana, to our great country, and to our fellow man and woman and child to educate ourselves to address the wants and needs of the world…
If we can’t do that then we have failed in our journey in the primordial forests of Western Indiana.
We’ve done a lot, but we can do so much more. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. The title of my address is "Let Wabash Always Fight!" In the final benediction/caveat of that editorial I said "If Wabash Always fights, may she fight over things that matter." You—students, faculty, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, and aunts—you all can make a difference even with a minimal time commitment. You can spend five minutes on freerice.com and improve your vocabulary while providing a meal for those who need it; you can grow your hair out and donate it to Locks of Love; you can volunteer an hour a week at your library at a literacy program; or you can spend an hour at the Boys’ and Girl’s club or at a retirement home. Every little bit helps.
We’re Little Giants. We might be little because of the size of our community but we are Giants because of the impact that we can and do have.
We can make that difference because of our proven drive and determination, we can make that difference because of who we are….
Who are we? [Wabash!]
Who are we? [Wabash!]
Who are we? [Wabash!]
Don’t you ever forget that, and the power and responsibilities that it entails. Men of the class of 2008, thank you for your time. And for truth, for friendship, for justice, and for learning, Let Wabash Always Fight. Thank you.